Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

#40 Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness in the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

I hear that sleep is nice. So is not dreaming about long-dead serial killers who get off on torturing their unknown but very large number of victims and then dissecting them and selling their skeletons. I also am under the impression that wandering around your house in a state of disgust, fear and more disgust is not desirable. I did figure out though why I was feeling so crappy last night; it wasn't that difficult really.

Yuck, yuck and more yuck. Not only was this book oddly split and strangely narrated, the conceit didn't work. I liked reading about the World's Fair and all the new! and exciting! inventions that came from it (shredded wheat, Ferris wheels, and pancake mix, oh my!), however, for obvious reasons, I never needed to find out how Jack the Ripper arranged one of his victims or how one can gas small children locked in a trunk. Maybe, I'm being naive, but I feel like there is all ready so much hate, anger and violence in the world, I don't need to know all about it to understand that it exists. This is the same reason why I refuse to watch or read any scene that has a graphic assault, except those that are "educational" (for instance, yes, I saw Boys Don't Cry and read Lovely Bones. No way in hell am I ever going to see either of the Kill Bills.)

This novel really felt like two books mushed together for no apparent reason. It seemed like the serial killer story was added to spice up the Fair aspect, which a) it didn't and b) is a cheap (and repugnant) trick. I think that the Fair story could have stood on it's own. I am in the minority though. Devil got loads of great reviews. Some people like to know all the gorey details (on the Amazon page, someone complained about there not being enough photos, good lord like I need something else to picture when I about to go to sleep), obviously, I am not one of them


  • At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The cover of the book says, "MURDER, magic and MADNESS..." and the back of the book clearly states that it's about a serial killer. I'm so tired of people like you complaining about topics in books and on tv. If you don't want to read about a serial killer and murders, then why would you have picked up this book and read it???? If you don't want to hear about it, don't read it/watch it. Enough...grow up and shut up.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger Meredith said…


    I have to disagree with you on mamy levels. Just because part of a plot is about a serial killer, it does not follow that there is also very graphic details about how said murderer committed his crimes. I picked up the book because I knew that it was front listed for the Pulitzer(?) and I was interested in broadening my non-fiction horizons.

    Also, it's very interesting that you reccommend to me that if I don't like something, I shouldn't read it. Maybe you should take your own advice? And, not liking graphic violence does not make me immature, nor should I "shut up" about it. Being anonymous (and you're not really that anonymous anyway) is a pretty wimpy way to leave negative, non-constructive comments on blogs. Grow up, perhaps?


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